Q&A with US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue

US Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue discussed efforts in Congress to raise the liability cap on BP for its role in the Gulf oil spill at a May 28 Monitor Breakfast.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor/File
US Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said at a May 28 Monitor Breakfast that Congress should not retroactively raise the liability cap on BP to pay for damage from the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas Donohue leads the world's largest not-for-profit business federation. Earlier in his career, he was president of the American Trucking Association. He was the guest speaker at the May 28 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

On the Obama administration's attitude toward business:

"I think there is an absence of people in the White House who understand business compared to previous administrations of both parties."

On efforts in Congress to raise the liability cap on BP for its role in the Gulf oil spill:

"It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game.... Everybody is going to contribute to this cleanup. We are all going to have to do it."

On attitudes on Capitol Hill toward the business community:

"I am personally troubled about the way we have been treating not only business leaders but – let's go there – bankers, people that run health-care companies, people that run oil companies. They are being hauled up to the Congress ... and beat up like unruly children for the TV cameras.... This is a mistake for our country because it demeans us around the world."

On the need for business regulation:

"I believe in constructive regulation. I think it would also be fair to say that we probably have more regulation by page and by agency and by number than anyone on this side of Mars. So the question is, what kind of regulation?… [W]e can regulate ourselves effectively, or we can regulate ourselves out of business."

On Republicans' prospects for taking control of the House in the 2010 elections:

"I suspect there will be a good amount of turnover. I think it would be a long reach to take back the House."

On the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic measure that would require corporations and others to disclose spending on independent campaign broadcast advertisements:

"What [Democrats in Congress] propose is fundamentally unconstitutional."

On the likelihood that China, which he recently visited, will remedy what critics say is an undervalued currency:

"I do think they are going to do something, and the message that I got back ... is, yeah, stay tuned, news at 11, but don't force us; we are not going to do it like it looks like you are twisting our arm.... I would hope by the [June 26] G-20 [summit in Toronto], you will see something."

After this Q and A was posted, it became the subject of comment by various bloggers. In response, the Chamber issued a clarification of Mr. Donohue’s remarks on the Gulf oil cleanup. To read the full text click here.

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